“You have cancer.”
How does a person respond to that? How did I respond to it?
At first I didn’t tell anybody. I needed time to let it sink in.
Anger was the first emotion I felt. I have places to go and things to do. I don’t have time to be sick. Those were my thoughts. Just when I thought I was getting some traction on my path, it all was pulled out from under me – again. So I wasn’t just angry, I was hopping mad.
Fear came next. But my fear was for my children. What will happen to them if I can’t beat this thing? At least they are almost old enough to fend for themselves. But without close family, who will help them carry on if I am no longer here?
I was also afraid of them having to care for me if I got too sick to take care of myself. My father died of lung cancer last year. It was so advanced, he opted not to have any treatment. I spent a lot of time caring for him and crying with him in his last few months. It is not something I want my children to have to go through.
I am not afraid of dying. It is something that eventually happens to all of us. I am afraid of not living. But that fear is not new. It is something I have lived with since I was a teenager. I have always tried to fill each moment with living – lots of it.
I have lived the condensed version. I don’t have many things on my list that I haven’t yet done. Still, I’m not ready to give it up yet.
So I was back to being angry again.
My kids were the first to know. Then a very few close friends. There were a few close friends I didn’t tell. I couldn’t. And it wasn’t that I was afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. I just didn’t want to deal with it myself, so the fewer people who knew, the better. I had a hard time saying it. I still have a hard time saying it. I’m sorry if some of my friends feel left out, but I had to deal with this in my own way.
I want to thank all of my friends and family who were there to support me through this. And the ones who would have been there had they known. I also want to thank the many strangers who have wished me well after learning my story. Thank you all. I will never forget. I have a feeling that I will still need your kindness and support, as the shock wears off and reality sets in.
I had to have all kinds of tests, procedures to collect tissue samples, etc., etc., to get to the point of knowing that it was cancer, then determining its grade and stage. I also developed severe anemia during this time, which complicated things even more.
My doctors were all very encouraging once they knew what I actually was dealing with. Endometrial cancer. Grade 1. Stage 1. Caught very early. Most likely hasn’t spread. Surgery should get rid of it without any further treatment.
“If you’re going to get cancer, this is the kind you want to have.”
I’d rather not have it at all, thank you very much. But it was comforting to know that I was going to be OK – if it didn’t spread.
So here I am. Surgery done. Healing in progress. Prognosis: It didn’t spread (I held my breath for two weeks before I found this out). So that is it. I feel weird. Like did I really have cancer? How did I get by without months and years of chemo, radiation, etc.?
I feel a little guilty that I didn’t have more of a journey. But I am also grateful. Despite having major surgery, I feel pretty healthy. I can do a lot of things I didn’t think I could so soon after the surgery.
In a month or two my life will get back to normal – or at least something like normal. Many other people with cancer – including some of my family and friends – will struggle on. Some will beat it; others will not.
So I am starting over with another new life – one of many that I have been fortunate enough to have – more appreciative of what I have, and more determined to live life to the fullest. And carry with me yet another reminder of the frailties of life.
I don’t mind talking about any of this. If you want to know more, please ask. If you have cancer and need a friend, just give me a shout.